Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Loughborough's devastation over AstraZeneca jobs loss

Elaine Thelen
BBC News, Loughborough

AstraZeneca in Leicestershire
Highly-paid and skilled staff are employed at the site

For people in the Leicestershire market town of Loughborough, news that one of its largest employers is to close has left them in a state of shock.

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca announced on Tuesday its plant in the town would close by the end of 2011, resulting in the loss of 1,200 jobs.

The decision, which has been described as "devastating" by local people, has become the main topic of conversation.

The worry is the ripple-effect could lead to 3,000 jobs going in the town.

Paul Fileman, of Loughborough Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: "It could be as much as £2m taken out of the local economy and a lot of the people who are affected are very bright individuals with very specialised job roles.

"They're going to potentially be looking for new jobs away from Loughborough.

It affects lots of people, everybody knows somebody who works at AstraZeneca. Everybody's talking about it
Jackie Walker, businesswoman

"If they leave, jobs are permanently lost to the area, then 1,200 could very easily become 2,500 and that doesn't bear thinking about. It could easily double the unemployment rate over the next two years."

The AstraZeneca research facility develops treatments for lung and breathing problems. Over the past 10 years more than £100m has been spent developing the site.

Optician David Austen, who has worked in the town since 1972, said he is saddened by the news of its closure.

"It's a large employer of the town. The whole town won't fold up but it will have some impact," Mr Austen said.

"But for the human angle I feel really sad. As a self-employed person it's just awful. I thought the recession was over but it's only just beginning really."

Loughborough Market
Experts predict the local economy could be badly hit

Hotelier Lez Cope-Newman said he stands to lose £6,000 per month when AstraZeneca closes down, as five rooms in his hotel are booked five-nights-a-week for its employees.

Jules Hill runs a home interiors and gift shop in the area and acknowledged the loss of the firm would have a direct impact on the local economy.

"My customers are talking about it, they say it's devastating for Loughborough.

"I'm devastated, I'm worried about what will happen about trade... we're not out of the recession yet.

"We are resilient in Loughborough and people will bounce back... I think there will be gains and losses."

'Government help'

Traders at the regular Thursday market said the news was very much on people's minds.

Stallholder Chris Holt, who has been trading at Loughborough Market for 29 years, said: "It's bad news for Loughborough. People at AstraZeneca are well-paid so there could be a knock-on effect.

"We've got a well-established market so it's difficult to judge how it will impact.

"I want the government to try and help the town and fill the hole that's been created."

Jackie Walker, who has run a business in the town for 30 years, described the news as "very sad".

She said: "It affects lots of people, everybody knows somebody who works at AstraZeneca. Everybody's talking about it.

"It's also such a beautiful building and I hope somebody will come in and see the potential of being in Loughborough - it's a lovely market town.

"I just hope it won't have too much of a detrimental affect."

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